Outnumbered by Cormac O’Brien

Almost everyone loves a story where people prevail against all odds. Cormac O’Brien explores this question as he explains how a military force that is facing a superior force either in numbers or guns shocked the world by winning an upset victory.   O’Brien goes beyond the generalship to look at the topography and weather conditions. He looks at the morale and sheer determination and will to win that makes the difference. Mr. O’Brien examines some of the best know battles in all of history as well as some that are lesser known. He examines 14 battles. They are viewed in chronological order dating from anywhere 480 B.C. up to 1942.

He gives us an excellent picture of each battle. It makes it all very clear and understandable. He shares the more interesting and sometimes quirky points of each battle. The book’s layout is spectacular. A generous supply of wonderful color pictures, illustrations and maps both illustrate and help explain the battles. It is as well packaged book as I have seen. The presentation matches the content – spectacular. There is a good bibliography of recent research on the battles.

The battles covered are: Salamis (480 BCE), Issus (333 BCE), Cannae (216 BCE), Carrhae (53 BC), Alesia (52 BCE), Tricamarum (533), Agincourt (1415), Narva (1700), Leuthen (1757), Auerstadt (1806), Chancellorsville (1863), Tannenberg (1914), and Singapore (1942). 

I am a US Civil War fan. The story of how Confederate General Robert E. Lee won a victory even though he was outnumbered more than two to one by Union forces at Chancellorsville, Virginia is one of my favorites.  I was enlightened by how the 35,000 poorly supplied Japanese got the 85,000 British troops to surrender at Singapore in 1942.

I had to remind myself that the focus was on being outnumbered, not on what were the most important battles in history.  Mr. O’Brien does an excellent job of giving an overview or survey of these battles.  The writing is wonderful.  Again, the presentation is as good as it gets.  This would be an excellent resource for any military history buff.  The quality of the work makes it an excellent resource for any public or school library.  Well done!

Fortress Rabaul: The Battle for the Southwest Pacific, January 1942 – April 1943 by Bruce Gamble

Bruce Gamble’s “Fortress Rabaul: The Battle for the Southwest Pacific, January 1942 – April 1943″ is a magnificent and important work on this often neglected part of World War II. Mr. Gamble has paid the price in research. The accounts he collected from participants in the campaign, the US and Australian archives, and the official records of the US, Australian, and Japanese clarify and punctuate the events.  
You experience Rabaul and New Britain through his graphic description of the topography and weather. You get a clear understand of the volcanic origins of the Rabaul and the impact the volcanoes and volcanic activity to include earthquakes have on the land and inhabitants. 
Mr. Gamble does an excellent job telling the story. I read the book in one week while on vacation. I found it that compelling and entertaining. The author does an exceptional job telling the story.  I was floored by the account of the bombing of the Komaki Maru. “The Komaki Maru shuddered under the impact of the two hits, which ignited the cargo of aviation fuel. ‘A few seconds later,’ recalled an Australian eyewitness, ‘the ship was an inferno and the roar of the flames almost drowned out the screams of the Japanese trapped aboard.’

The narrative reads with all the vigor and imagery of a novel. The chapter Medal of Honor: Lieutenant Edward H. “Butch” O’Hare reads like a Hollywood action movie. We learn the story of the man whose name graces O’Hare Airport in Chicago.  We see how his action saved the USS Lexington and won him his nations highest military honor, the Medal of Honor. We learn the story of how he interposed his fighter between his ship and an advancing enemy formation of 9 attacking twin-engine heavy bombers. We see how without hesitation, alone and unaided, he repeatedly attacked this enemy formation, at close range in the face of intense combined machine gun and cannon fire. We find out that by his gallant and courageous action, his extremely skillful marksmanship in making the most of every shot of his limited amount of ammunition that he shot down 5 enemy bombers and severely damaged a sixth before they reached the bomb release point. As a result of his gallant action—one of the most daring, if not the most daring, single action in the history of combat aviation—he undoubtedly saved his carrier from serious damage.

Other Medal of Honor stories like that of Harl Pease, Jr are include. The book is excellent. It is a must read for any military or aviation history buff. It would make a great addition to any community or university library. 

The Pritzker Military Library has an interview with the author  Bruce Gamble at: Pritzker Military Library Interview Video.